The United States of Charity The Generosity Index: Ranking the Most Charitable Places in the U.S.

Americans made nearly $390 billion in charitable donations in 2016. Is that philanthropy equally distributed across the country, or are there pockets of more or less generous communities?

At JotForm, we help our customers create and embed forms on their websites. Our convenient payment processing integrations with Square, PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.Net makes us a great option for nonprofit organizations looking for a no-fuss way to accept donations online.

Curious about the geographic distribution of online giving, we decided to look at the geography of donations made to nonprofit organizations through our forms. We analyzed more than 125,000 donations to uncover the amount donors gave on average as well as how likely they were to make a donation after seeing the form. For this study, we restricted the dataset to the top 20 states with the most donations processed.

According to our data, people from Tennessee made the largest average donations and gave the largest percentage of their median income. Indiana had the smallest donations and gave the smallest percentage of its median income. Donors in Oregon were most likely to follow through and make a gift after viewing a giving form, while South Carolina was the least likely.

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First, we ranked each state by its average donation amount.

average donation amounts by state

Donors in Tennessee  made the biggest donations, averaging $235 per gift. The second and third largest gift-givers, Wisconsin and Texas, averaged donations around $215. 

Which states make smaller donations?

states with smallest donations

Donors in Indiana made the lowest donations, averaging $50 per gift. South Carolina and Michigan averaged about $115, while donors in Ohio, Maryland and North Carolina commonly gave gifts around $150. 

It may be harder to sell potential donors on a charitable cause in some states than in others. When a user sees a giving form, what’s the probability that they’ll actually make a donation? We broke down conversion rate by state to find out if certain states are more likely to give.  

states likely to donate

Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin are the three states where people were most likely to actually make a gift after seeing the donation form, with 1 in 10 viewers becoming donors. The next highest converting states, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan, saw about 1 in 20 viewers go on to make a donation.  

least generous US states

South Carolina and Massachusetts  saw about 1 in 500 web form visitors make donations, while Indiana fared better with 1 in 130 visitors becoming donors. 

Average gift size and higher conversion rates may say more about a state’s ability to give than its charitability or generosity. It’s possible that donors in certain states had more disposable income, and therefore the freedom, to make larger or more frequent gifts. To take income into account, we ranked states by their average donation amount as of percentage of the state’s median income (according to the 2015 U.S. Census).

states donating the largest percent of income

Tennessee remained the top-ranked state, with its average gift ($235) representing nearly 1% of median income ($47,275). Georgia moved from 7th to 4th and Florida from 10th to 5th after controlling for income; Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, with median incomes closer to $70,000, dropped off the list. 

states donating smallest percentage of income

Donors from Indiana gave the smallest percentage of income, averaging donations of only 0.10% of the state’s median income. Maryland and Illinois gave around 0.20%, while the rest of the list gave between 0.23% and 0.30%. 

Chad is Director of Communications at JotForm. He’s also a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications, and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his girlfriend and cats in Oakland, California. You can reach Chad through his contact form.

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